29 November 2010

Playing dress up in the big league

The way my studio project is going, I might as well make use of these :

Maybe they will help me to see things extremely far away*, like utopian visions of massive housing projects overtaking the world's cities.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's likely you need to see the world through the eyes of an architect, albeit a visionary one in love with massive concrete structure like Le CorbusierOne blogger thinks, like me, that parts of Hong Kong have already taken Corbu's advice to heart.  Perhaps I'm only, then, continuing the tradition.

Here's an illustration of Corbu's ideas about the "natural evolution" of cities towards his massive urban planning ideals (circa 1935) :

Good bye, small scaled urban fabric.  Hello, monumentality.

More elaboration soon...

* (Thankfully, I still only need to wear my real glasses when needing to see things far away - for now, that is.)

20 November 2010

The real me?

Ridiculously, I decided to question my identity rather than go to bed.

The result?

You’re book smart, moral and cool under pressure. You love learning and showing others what you know. You’re way more mature than those around you, and you always seem to know what’s best.

(And, you clearly know how to pose in front of some key London architectural icons.  And you're not afraid to get a little gritty.)

Now time for bed.  HP7 (part 1) in IMAX awaits - tonight!

12 November 2010

Rapid prototyping food

We're not quite at the level of a Star Trek replicator, the band Ok Go did introduce rapid prototyping - in the form of a laser cutter and thousands of slices of toast - to illustrate this music video:

Last Leaf

Oh the joys of stop motion and lasers...

11 November 2010

In the non-Muggle world...

... anticipation!

I promised my residents we would take a field trip, and - egads! - the premiere is almost upon us!  Time to look at tickets!


 The cover of the UK edition, which I like for its whimsical nature more than its American counterpart.

The other day, I was joking with Marcus (aka "the tall one") about the prospect of his "rent-a-tall-guy" job scheme, in which he would leverage his almost 6'-4" frame to reach the highest shelves or move things for average-to-short heighted people.  He then suggested that I have a similar "rent-a-small-person" side job, which seemed inane but... hey, I have been asked to crawl in small, tight spaces (mostly related to tunneling at Columbia...), so why didn't I just charge for those services?

Kidding aside, these conversations made me realize that, in some ways, these "rent -a-___" models are innocuous ways of renting out the capacity of your body to do something.  Here in normal law-abiding society (if you can even call it that), it means being a handyman or doing a simple service.  But what if it's unwilling rental?  And what if you're asked to do something you otherwise would never have dreamed you would be subjected to by another human being?

These questions had come up for me during what seems to be an innocent book report assignment.  For my D-Lab Schools class (aka the Cambodia class), I read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn's new book entitled Half the Sky.  Based on the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist couple's extensive travels and reporting, HtS looks at the many inequalities experienced by women in developing countries and, through giving voice to the personal stories of women they've met along the way, proposing various ways to improve their livelihoods and - essentially - change the world as we know it, “emancipat[ing] women and fight[ing] global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts” (pg. xxii).

Lofty goal?  Perhaps so.  The NYTimes book reviewer also calls out the book's undisguised desire to “ 'recruit' the reader to join a worldwide movement to end these abuses."  This focus on women - also called "the girl effect" or "the double X solution" - reverses some societies' previously male-dominant biases by showcasing how education in particular for women can lead to delayed marriage, decreased child bearing, increased skills that can finance a family's further education, open up doors for employment and empowerment, and generally create financial independence.  Whew.

What was quite interesting to me was that these traits are all incredibly communal.  Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, is quoted by saying this oft-repeated African proverb, "You educate a boy, and you’re educating an individual. You educate a girl, and you’re educating an entire village." Now, what is it that supposedly makes women so much more familial and outreaching than men?  This fact upon which most of these claims and much of the book are based wasn't exactly addressed.  Is it because of inherent female traits like empathy?  Because of the act of childbearing, the very direct connections with children and family members?  I'm actually not sure (maybe someone else can shed some more light on this), but this begs the question, what if we asked the question, if we were all instilled with such a strong sense of community, would we all then have the capacity to serve one another and transform society equally, regardless of gender?

After reading the book, I was both heart-wrenched by the harrowing atrocities of sex trafficking, forced suicide, and intentional medical deprivation (among other abuses), but convinced that something could be done to change these current situations.  Another Kristof article showcases "DIY foreign aid" and social entrepreneurs who start off small but end up having a large impact on the communities they serve.  What is the motivation, though?  Humanitarian work could be another topic/blog post all together, but motivation is a tricky thing to pinpoint.  To be good and help others?  But in whose image are these people made?

I can't help but think about Acts 2 and the early Church's whole-hearted devotion to one another and to those overlooked in society (women, widows, orphans).  Is this not a portrait of a life-altering reality, recognizing that each other is a unique individual made in the image of the Creator Himself?

In any rate, the book is a good one and highly recommended, although it's not for the faint of heart - or faint of resolve to make a contribution outside of our own narrow perspectives.

07 November 2010


My housemasters (and bosses) were featured in the Tech Review, in an article that talks about the 42 professors and professionals who live in dorms across campus and provide a wise head to undergrads (and grads) across campus.

Kathy and Charles have made McC their home for 18 years, and yet they seem to never tire of living in an all girls environment!  (What stamina... especially for Charles and their son Cameron, who are the only males even permitted to live here - and with their own bathroom.)  Over the short amount of time as GRT, I've grown to really appreciate their leadership and mentorship, as well as their hospitality and friendship.

It's also been interesting just with the simple adjustment to what is considered to be my job this year, although I suppose it's more of a life encompassing activity since... well, I live with my residents, share their bathroom, hear their noise, chat with them, and generally contribute to the nice smells of baked goods wafting down the halls.

We also have done things like crafts together - these photos are long overdue, but it was a fun night of playing kindergarten and using a LOT of glitter :

Project: make signs of encouragement for midterms time.

... and use as much glitter in the process as possible.

My carpet still sparkles with the remnants of that night, but I'm glad there have been happy times like that to behold.  People often comment about my living with 48 girls (between two floors, of course).  My response: fun!  lively!  drama-filled!  noisy!  (in certain pockets)  What else to expect?  I do enjoy.  And I wish I had more time to actually hang out, bake/cook extensively, and plan more hands-on activities - but alas, studio and general grad life call me as well.  Balance is life's dilemma, but thank goodness for serendipity and spontaneity that create fun spots in the mix when planning goes awry.

Revealing through raindrops

Photo by Tarsem Saini, via Desi Comments

While reading about Oliver Sachs' new book The Mind's Eye and perusing some of his research / articles, I came across the story of John Hull, who recorded his experiences and reflections as he lost his vision and then while living as a newly blinded person.  I read an excerpt from this collection entitled Touching the Rock, and his description of rain and what that means is incredibly poignant ... never thought of it in that way.  Perhaps my own senses, even as a completely able-bodied person, need honing to hear nature's concealed symphony.

One particular passage :

I hear the rain pattering on the roof above me, dripping down the walls to my left and right, splashing from the drainpipe at ground level on my left, while further over to the left there is a lighter patch as the rain falls almost inaudibly upon a large leafy shrub. On the right, it is drumming, with a deeper, steadier sound upon the lawn. I can even make out the contours of the lawn, which rises to the right in a little hill. The sound of the rain is different and shapes out the curvature for me. ... Over the whole thing, like light falling upon a landscape is the gentle background patter gathered up into one continuous murmur of rain.

I think that this experience of opening the door on a rainy garden must be similar to that which a sighted person feels when opening the curtains and seeing the world outside. Usually, when I open my front door, there are various broken sounds spread across a nothingness. I know that when I take the next step I will encounter the path, and that to the right my shoe will meet the lawn. ...  I know all these things are there but I know them from memory. ... The rain presents the fullness of an entire situation all at once, not merely remembered, not in anticipation, but actually and now...

If only rain could fall inside a room, it would help me to understand where things are in that room, to give a sense of being in the room, instead of just sitting on a chair.

This is an experience of great beauty. I feel as if the world, which is veiled until I touch it, has suddenly disclosed itself to me. I feel ! that the rain is gracious, that it has granted a gift to me, the gift of the world...

from RAIN 9 September 1983, in Touching the Rock
(italics are my own)

02 November 2010

Textures of MIT

In the last FAST class, we presented ideas for neuroscience based installations, stemming from a presentation by Professor Pawan Sinha, from the Brain and Cog department, about his research on visual neuroscience, or visualizations of how the brain learns to see and process information.  My summary doesn't do his research justice, so it might be better just to watch his TED talk instead for some very cool demonstrations of his work as applied through his non-profit in India.

In any rate, our group was massive (5 architecture students plus 1 musicology student) and we generated 3 project ideas for last week.  Kelly and I worked on one of them, which was based on the brain's gradual process of deciphering an image from its parts to the whole (particularly at the moment when a blind person regains eyesight and the brain needs to learn to see).  In this, we conceived of a texturized wall with a blank digital surface on top that people could press or rub in order to reveal the image beneath.  At first the textures would be abstract patches, but over time and from a distance, the overall image would be recognized as more people participate.

The original example image, with outlines extracting its principal elements :

Various texture abstractions of the image, with each combination affecting how one perceives the actual result :

Image of the potential installation wall :
If digitized, the image behind could change and potentially be "layered," like Old Masters paintings that have been concealed by other paintings and can only be revealed by careful stripping.  (Hm...hopefully that reference makes sense.  See the Thomas Crown Affair if not.)  In class, we  discussed potentially having the rate at which someone rubbed the wall affect the image that is revealed underneath, so that a series of images could be revealed at once that would tell a narrative relating to MIT's history or future trajectory.

This is a bit abstract, but of course, I'm procrastinating from my current work by writing this post about my work... and this is still a theoretical project.  By tomorrow, we need to conceive of a final project idea, so we'll see what comes of that.

Nothing else will do

Early mornings inspire these sort of songs.

01 November 2010

The Lo Clan in the Midwest

It was pretty funny to write that blog title.  The Lo family?  In the Midwest?  What?  But indeed, that's what has happened.  Now we no longer only bookend the United States, but we're slowly infiltrating the heartland.

In the past 2 weeks, 3 particular members celebrated getting one year older (and literally, just one year for one of them). Happy birthday to GG, Jenny, and Isaac!  Yes, all 3 in one family have birthdays from mid to the end of October.  (This was not planned.)

I snagged a few pictures from their blog, since I (sniff) won't be able to head out there in person in the near future :

 The daddy and son.

The mommy and son.

Alas, I won't be able to make it this weekend for Isaac's one year old birthday bash.  This occasion, called Tol, carries quite a bit of significance in Korean culture (and has the food to celebrate with as well!).  One of the main events is the Toljabee, in which the child's future is determined by which object he or she is attracted to from a pile set before him or her.  On the list of meanings that I found online :
  • bow and arrow: the child will become a warrior 
  • needle and thread: the child will live long 
  • jujube: the child will have many descendants 
  • book, pencil, or related items: the child will become a successful scholar 
  • rice or rice cake (or money): the child will become rich
  • ruler, needle, scissors: the child will be talented with his/her hands 
  • knife: the child will be a good cook
Some of these items seem not so safe for a one year old to be grabbing (like...a needle?  or knife?).  Anyways, based on his parents, Isaac might go for the book/pencil or ruler/scissors (... dangerous for a one year old)...  although if he follows the Biblical footsteps of Abraham, then maybe the jujube?  (Do people even put that out as an option anymore?)

In any rate, we'll hear more on Saturday!  Hopefully I'll make it out there soon...